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5 Cool Inventions to be Excited About in 2012


Who’s ready for The Blaze's next “top whatever” list? If you’re like us, and we know we are, you've been anxiously awaiting the release of another arbitrarily ranked list of similar-but-different things.

For today’s installment, we thought we’d steer away from the more financially focused “top whatevers” and stray into Liz Klimas's territory. That is, we’re going to bring you a tech list.

So without wasting any more time on introductory remarks, here are the “top 5” coolest tech items and services (that we know of) for 2012, as presented by CNN Money [all block quotes from the same]:

5. "White Spaces" Wi-Fi

Hidden between individual television channels is a small but valuable collection of airwaves that will allow for a kind of "super Wi-Fi" network.

The Federal Communications Commission recently opened up the spectrum that sits between television channels numbered 1 through 51. Wireless communications in those "white spaces" have been permitted since Jan. 26 in Wilmington, N.C., the FCC's designated testbed location. After the bugs are worked out, the spaces will be opened up nationally in the coming months.

The FCC designated the white spaces as "unlicensed" band, meaning anyone can broadcast in it for free. It's a primo band that sits lower than today's Wi-Fi, allowing signals to travel over significantly longer distances and through buildings and walls.

It'll take time for all the necessary infrastructure -- including new chipsets for smartphones and other devices -- to roll out, but FCC expects the expansion to lead to innovative new kinds of wireless networks, including connected highways, schools, parks and towns. Wireless carriers scrounging for more spectrum could also begin to broadcast Wi-Fi to customer-dense areas to reduce stress on their 3G and 4G networks.

4. Microsoft Windows 8

Windows 8 has a completely new visual interface that's unlike anything you've seen on a PC before. It's optimized for touch screens on mobile devices like tablets, but it will also work for those with a traditional mouse and keyboard setup.

The result is a computer that operates as a hybrid, with all the functions of a standard PC operating system but the user experience of a tablet. [...]

3. Lytro's Light-Field Camera

Ever snapped a picture in a hurry, looked back and realized you forgot to focus? The much-hyped Lytro has the solution, with a light-field camera that lets you adjust a picture after it's been snapped.

"What's often been said about us is that we're camera 3.0," says Kira Wampler, Lytro's vice president of marketing. "You can do things that you've never been able to do before."

Lytro CEO Ren Ng worked for six years to commercialize the technology, which he pioneered as part of his Ph.D. research at Stanford University. [...] It comes in two models: a $399 8 GB camera in Graphite or Electric Blue that takes 350 pictures, or a 16 GB "Red Hot" model for $499 that holds 750 pictures.

2. Anything released by Apple (hear us out)

Let's face it, the most talked-about tech product (or products) this year will probably come from Apple.

The company is widely rumored to be prepping a television for release in 2012 that will run its Apple TV software. Though Apple TV set-top box sales haven't been impressive, the late Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson that he had "finally cracked" the code for success. Jobs said that the device Apple is creating will have a simple user interface and will sync easily with other devices in the home.


Some Apple believe Apple had a more significantly overhauled iPhone in the works that just wasn't quite ready to launch last fall. It could make an appearance this year.

1. Google's virtual reality goggles

Augmented reality may end up being one of the hottest fashion accessories of 2012. Google is secretly working on Android-powered virtual reality glasses that it plans to begin selling by the end of the year, according to reports in the New York Times and the blog 9 to 5 Google.

Details are scant about the rumored glasses, but the basic idea is to beam contextually relevant information straight to your eyeballs. Like augmented reality apps, the glasses could deliver an added layer of information about, say, a landmark you're looking at, or offer up a discount to a restaurant that catches your gaze.

"If facial recognition software becomes accurate enough, the glasses could remind a wearer of when and how he met the vaguely familiar person standing in front of him at a party," the New York Times' Nick Bilton theorizes. "They might also be used for virtual reality games that use the real world as the playground."

A Google representative declined to comment.

Read the full story and descriptions at CNNMoney.

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